It’s been less than two weeks since Jim Johnsen took the helm as president of the University of Alaska. He sees an opportunity amid the dark cloud of declining state funding and budget cuts throughout the University of Alaska system.
“We play the single-most important role in creating a knowledge economy in Alaska,” he said. “And, so when I look long term, that’s the bright light that I’m looking at.”
He sees that knowledge economy playing a pivotal role in helping Alaska diversify an economy that has been primarily based around oil.
Specifically, on the heels of President Barack Obama’s visit to the state, as well as the growing prominence of climate change, Johnsen says there will be increased emphasis on Arctic research.
“We already lead the world in citations and academic journals on Arctic subjects,” Johnsen said. “We’re gonna continue to drive that and continue to lead.”
Despite the potential bright side of the university’s future, there will be more years of declining state funding. And Johnsen says he and the Board of Regents are taking that into account as they shape their budget request for the next fiscal year.
“We’re certainly going to be looking again at cost effectiveness,” he said. “Our approach is gonna be modest, because again, we read the papers, and I think we’ll be very reasonable in our request to the Legislature.”
The university faced a $28 million shortfall last year.